Almost exactly twelve months ago, on my daily walk along Smith St I watched the transformation of a dull little shop into a quirky looking bar. There was a hive of activity, with builders and tradesman coming in and out. Progress was fast. The bar opened and I made a mental note to give it a try.
A week or so later I had plans to head there one Tuesday evening but disaster struck, there was a little write up of the bar “Gigibaba” in the espresso section of The Age. The article noted that Gigibaba was the new outpost for Western Australian wunderkid Ismail Tosun and that the place was already “pumping”. Of course, I rued the fact that the article came out the day I planned to go – fearing that I would have no chance of bagging a seat (no reservations allowed). I ended up arriving at the bar right on 6pm that evening and managed to have a fabulous meal there. It was incredible to watch the conga line of patrons arriving, only to be turned away as the place was heaving. A gushing review a week or so later served to compound the hype, guaranteeing that it would be almost impossible to ever snag a table.
Fast forward 12 months and Gigibaba is still pumping, although the excitement has waned somewhat. The restaurant closed inexplicably for a few months, with a note on the door saying that Tosun had been called back to Turkey for business. Now that the restaurant is open again, I thought it was about time to give it another try.
We arrived at about 7.15pm on a Saturday night and were lucky enough to immediately grab the last available table. The place was a buzz of activity, people crammed in around the bar and jammed around tiny tables. Dark and moody, some music was playing in the background but it was largely overwhelmed by the excited chatter of the patrons.
Hungry after a drinking session at Bebida (love the half price happy hour) we ordered a swag of dishes that were promptly demolished. First up, a fresh and zingy broadbean salad:
Dressed simply in olive oil and white vinegar, the broadbeans were mixed with spring onions, fried garlic and coriander. I absolutely love broadbeans (as I gushed about in a previous post) and the simple accompaniments here served to highlight their freshness and flavour.
Our next arrival was a cauliflower and pomegranate salad and some olives:
The cauliflower salad was stunning. It consisted of cauliflower and chopped parsley studded with pomegranate seeds and raisins. The dressing contained hints of cinnamon which worked so well with the sweetness of the raisins. It was a favourite. The warmed olives were equally delicious; flavoursome, moist little mouthfuls.
We then had some halloumi and dates:
Sure it didn’t look that attractive, but it tasted great (reminiscent of the saganaki with peppered figs I had at Hellenic Republic). The sweetness of the warm, sticky date worked so well with the rich saltiness of the halloumi – yum!
Our lamb cutlets arrived next and were crammed into the centre of our overstuffed table:
The cutlets were moist and soft, simply flavoured with lemon and oregano. Given their tenderness we surmise that they had been marinating for a very long time before they came to us.
Our next dish was a pan fried Red Emperor fillet:
This was another simple dish that was perfectly executed. The fish was moist, with a seared skin, accompanied by lemon and parsley. Absolutely delicious.
The last dish of the night was good, but probably the least successful dish of the evening:
The spanner crab and fetta tart was perfectly formed and had a gorgeous burnished exterior. The inner part of the tart was a light, molten mixture of cheese, which was nice, but we couldn’t taste the advertised crab. The tart was topped with witlof and avocado, which added a fresh element to an otherwise rich dish.
While Gigibaba offers a range of little sweet morsels for dessert, we ended our meal here and headed to Cutler & Co for dessert at the bar (we split the ice-cream sandwich with salted caramel and the violet ice cream, chocolate ganache, sour cherry – yum!).
All in all, it was an excellent meal. I think Gigibaba earned every inch of the hype but I am glad that it’s now that little bit less stressful to get a table. I won’t leave it so long to come back again.
102 Smith St Collingwood
Ph: (03) 9486 0345
Open Tue-Sun, 6pm-11pm
Dishes range from about $6-$23. Note that servings are small, so you could end up having an expensive night if you are really hungry.